Lighting: Pollution

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 27th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the cost of wasted energy from light pollution; and what assessment they have made of the impact of light pollution on (1) health, (2) wildlife, and (3) astronomy.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1. Public Health England carried out a study in 2016 for the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and the Society of Light and Lighting, which included an assessment of light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights on health. The study concluded that some LED streetlight luminaires emitted more blue light than was necessary, but that there was no evidence of direct adverse health effects on people.

2. Defra has published or contributed to a range of assessments of the impact of artificial light on insects and wider biodiversity, as well as global and national assessments of the drivers of biodiversity loss more generally.

Following publication of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report, ‘Artificial light in the environment’ in 2009, Defra has supported assessments of impacts of artificial light on insects and on other organisms such as bats. These are published on our science website. Defra has also funded or co-funded national and international assessments of drivers of change on insects and wider biodiversity such as the global IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, which notes effects of light on nocturnal insects may be growing and identifies the need for further study.

There have been a number of externally funded studies which have highlighted potential impacts of artificial light pollution on insects, which Defra keeps under review, for example, with our academic partners on the National Pollinator Strategy for England.

3. Government officials have met with relevant stakeholders including the Commission for Dark Skies but have not made an assessment of the impact of light pollution on astronomy.

The Government has not made an assessment specifically of the cost of wasted energy from light pollution. In respect of the Strategic Road network a full appraisal is carried out before any lighting project is commissioned, including in-depth analysis of the environmental impact and economic benefits of the scheme. All lighting on the network is designed according to current British and European standards which emphasise the importance of limiting light pollution, and older forms of lantern are in the process of being replaced with environmentally sensitive lighting when they become due for renewal.

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